Taking the time to listen to students
As part of his ongoing effort to hear directly from as many Seattleites as possible, Mayor Mike McGinn spent time talking to middle and high school students at two different events this past weekend–the B.O.O.M. (Build Our Own Movement) Summit at the Southwest Community Center on Saturday and the Seattle Youth Commission’s Youth Town Hall at the Vera Project on Sunday.
The youth at B.O.O.M. spent the morning and early afternoon in breakout groups discussing issues and planning out what they wanted to talk to the mayor about when he joined them for an open-ended group conversation. Among the topics they raised were racial profiling of youth by police officers, sexual harassment on school buses and the need for free school buses before and after school, the need for more youth employment, and the tokenization of youth by local government.
The quality of food in school lunches was a major topic of conversation. Several Evergreen High School students are trying to address it by starting a community garden at their school. This led to a broader discussion about the lack of healthy food in general in the Delridge neighborhood. The FEEST program at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center seeks to address this through weekly dinners cooked by and for local youth using local organic produce. The mayor, in turn, talked about the City’s P-Patch and urban gardening programs as well as his efforts to get healthier food into the schools, which are still at a very early planning phase. He made the point that the lack of grocery stores in the neighborhood is ultimately a business decision by the major grocery store chains, and that demonstrating local demand will be more effective in bringing large-scale healthy food options to Delridge than anything he’s able to do as mayor.
Social justice was also a strong theme at the Youth Town Hall on Sunday. Young people asked about lowering the voting age to allow high school students to vote, the mayor’s view on a high-earner’s income tax (he supports it, and voted for I-1098), how to compensate for the loss of federal funding for local homeless shelters, and the need for more job opportunities for youth. The session ended with an impassioned plea from an attendee asking they mayor and other local decision makers to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by taking time to see the choices that students make as very human reactions to their circumstances rather than as abstract problems to be countered by legislation.
Another participant asked a great question about the role of youth in civic life that allowed him to sum up his rationale for participating in both events in the first place. “We need you to be our conscience,” he said, pointing out that while politicians, businessmen, and union leaders constantly have their motivation called into question, adults tend to stop and listen to teenagers who care enough to come out and voice their opinions.
To learn more about how to work with FEEST or the other programs at Youngstown visit http://www.youngstownarts.org. For more information about the Youth Commission, which exists to represent the voices of youth to local elected officials year-round, go to http://seattle.gov/syc, call or text 206-427-3062. You can sign up for text message updates about community meetings, applications, and other major events by texting FOLLOW SYCUPDATES to 40404.
Mayor McGinn regularly holds town hall meetings with the public, and will be visiting every neighborhood in the City this year at least once. You can see when the next one will be held – and other events where the mayor or other City staff will be attending – on the Public Outreach and Engagement Calendar. It’s part of our Engage Seattle initiative, helping fulfill our commitment to open government and ensuring that anyone who wants to get involved can do so in a meaningful way.